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December 18, 2012 8:06 AM Senator Daniel Inouye, R.I.P.

By Kathleen Geier

As you may have heard by now, the Senate has lost one of its most distinguished members, Daniel Inouye of Hawaii. He was 88.

Inouye, a Japanese-American, broke racial barriers by becoming one of the first Asian-Americans to be elected to the U.S. senate. He first came to prominence during the Watergate era, when he served on the Senate Watergate Committee. After Nixon henchman John Ehrlichman testified, Inouye exclaimed, “What a liar!” into what he mistakenly thought was a dead mic. His disgust echoed the sentiments of a nation. He became a thorn in the side of the Nixon administration, who demonstrated their legendary class by referring to him with racial slurs. According to the New York Times obituary, an attorney for Ehrlichman and Haldeman publicly called him a “little Jap.” (He later apologized).

Inouye was known for his great dignity, and also for his diligent constituent services. Incredibly, the Times reports that up until his death, his Bethesda home phone number was publicly listed in the telephone book. Inouye is also known for his heroism during World War II, which led to the amputation of his right arm. If you don’t know it, it is an absolutely amazing story. I strongly urge you to read the account of Inouye’s military service on his Wikipedia page; it will give you the full measure of the man.

Inouye had been the longest-serving member of the senate. Politically, his death won’t change the balance of power in that body. Hawaii is a strongly Democratic state, and its Democratic governor will select a replacement senator from a list of candidates provided by the state party. The one major area where Inouye’s replacement could make a significant difference is in filibuster reform. It isn’t certain how Inouye would have voted on reform, but as a senate veteran, he would have been less likely to be friendly to reform than a newcomer.

Senator Inouye’s death seems to have genuinely moved his colleagues, and their expressions of loss appeared to go beyond the pro forma. The Times reports that his fellow senators seemed “shocked” by his death, and Senator Patrick Leahy is quoted as saying he is “broken up” about it. Senator Inouye certainly left his mark, and he will be missed. R.I.P.

Kathleen Geier is a writer and public policy researcher who lives in Chicago. She blogs at Inequality Matters. Find her on Twitter: @Kathy_Gee

Comments

  • Ron Byers on December 18, 2012 9:23 AM:

    His heroism in the face of determined German resistance is the stuff of legend. His political career was seldom if ever equalled. His honor and human decency are unsullied and unquestioned. Rest in peace Senator. Yours was a life well lived.

  • c u n d gulag on December 18, 2012 9:57 AM:

    To all of the Konservative Keyboard Kommando's out there, take a look at this man - THIS is what a hero, a warrior, and patriot really looks like!

    Not W, not Cheney, not even Petreaus. And certainly, not William Safire, David "Not-Mel" Brooks, Charles Krauthammer, or fat Jonah Goldberg.

    Or any of you, clattering on your keyboards, telling us how we need to arm everyone - just 'cause you want to compensate for your pale, chapped little pecker, which when erect, looks like an albino Cheeto, hidden under an overhanging mountain of fat.

    R.I.P. Senator.
    Ya done good! Even - GREAT!!!

  • SYSPROG on December 18, 2012 10:10 AM:

    We loved the Senator out here on the West Coast. Those that don't study HISTORY have no idea how great he was. He knew and understood the bigotry towards the Japanese in WWII and he helped to ease the pain in his years in Congress. He was a great man. He worked for both his state and his country. THIS is what courage, compassion and heroism looks like. He'll be missed.

  • MuddyLee on December 18, 2012 10:30 AM:

    Hawaii - Senator Inouye. South Dakota - Senator McGovern. South Caroina - Jim DeMint, Tim Scott. Jesus wept.

  • Al on December 18, 2012 11:52 AM:

    Wow, just read his wikipedia page...

    WOW!!!!!!!

    Can anyone please tell me why THE FOCK they are making films about John McCain (at least one that I know of) but not about Inouye?!!!!!

    Like c u n d gulag said above, THIS is what a real WAR HERO acts like (and an owner of a set of balls of titanium). Guess they just don't make them like this anymore...

  • captcrisis on December 18, 2012 1:44 PM:

    The attorney who called him a "little Jap" at first tried to deflect criticism. "I'm a little American," he said. "I wouldn't be offended if someone called me a little American." Which made it worse.

    It was also entertaining to see Inouye, who had lost an arm in combat, giving a hard time to fake-pompous-patriot Oliver North during the Iran-Contra hearings.

  • lex on December 18, 2012 3:06 PM:

    Exactly...these guys of the 442nd Regiment Combat Team and 100th Battalion saved many lives of our "Texas Lost Battalion." Mostly gone, the surviving members of the Battalion will always remember and honor those boys. They didn’t look like one of us but they were true warriors and heroes whom loved this country with all its faults. They gave their lives for our country, as true Americans…
    This is the story the Senator told many years ago...He was returning from the frontlines on his way to Hawaii. The Senator had a stopover in California (didn't say specifically where) because he needed a haircut. So the Senator stops in to the first barbershop he laid his eyes on. After waiting for several minutes and confronting jaundiced eyes around him, his turn comes up. As he stood up, the white barber glared at the Senator and told him, "I don't cut JAP hair." At the time, the Senator was in full-dress uniform of the U.S. Army with all ribbons, and missing a right arm. Apparently the barber, although grudgingly, gave the Senator a haircut, the Senator could help but to remember.
    We'll miss you, Senator...

  • Kevin (not the famous one) on December 18, 2012 4:12 PM:

    Repeating what Al @ 11:52 said
    (this must be a different Al from long ago)

    Wow, just read his wikipedia page...

    WOW!!!!!!!